Grand finale? Buehrle leaves on a winning note

Grand finale? Buehrle leaves on a winning note
September 28, 2011, 2:25 am
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Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2011
Posted: 9:29 p.m. Updated: 10:41 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com White Sox InsiderFollow @CSNChi_Beatnik
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This game, his season or career finale with the Chicago White Sox, couldnt possibly have gone better for Mark Buehrle.

The lefthander won his 161st career game with the White Sox and further cemented his place in team history with a memorable, soggy, seven shutout innings in a 2-1 win over the Toronto Blue Jays.

In the process, Buehrle logged his 11th straight season with 200 innings pitched, 10 wins and 30 starts. The win was also Buehrles 13th of the season, giving him the team lead and marking the fifth time hes led the White Sox in wins.

Catcher A.J. Pierzynski also crossed a milestone after the first inning, catching 1,000 innings for the 10th straight season, the only streak of that length currently in the majors.

And lets not forget another milestone in the game, interim manager Don Coopers first major league victory.

I had a blastit was fun, the baseball lifer said.

It was Pierzynskis possible eventual replacement, Tyler Flowers, who provided the first scoring, with a massive blast to straightaway center, hitting homers in back-to-back games for the first time. Later, Pierzynski singled in Alejandro De Aza to drive in the eventual deciding run.

Buehrle, at 97 pitches, was sent out by Cooper to start the eighth, but the interim manager held back the rest of the lineup. With his starter out on the mound, alone, Cooper went out to give him a hug and send him to the showers, giving the lefty the chance at a long, heartfelt standing ovation.

It came up perfectly, Cooper said of the Paul Konkero-Cooper staged production. It wasnt exactly plannedbut it couldnt have gone better I relished the opportunity to yank a multimillionaire.

It was the tribute he deserves, Pierzynski said. Hes probably my very favorite pitcher to catch. That my locker was next to his for seven years is pretty great.

I knew I was going out for the eighth, but figured theyd do something, admitted Buehrle, noting he was a lot more nervous before the game and had warned Konerko not to surprise him.

As Jesse Crain warmed up to relieve him, Buehrle was pushed back onto the field by Konerko, to get what Buehrle termed his first-ever curtain call.

The fans kept calling for him, Konerko said. The only regret is we werent really playing important games to finish the season.

Crain immediately gave up a solo shot to Mike McCoy, but Toronto would get no closer than the single-run final. Chris Saleironically slated to enter the starting rotation if Buehrle doesnt re-sign with the White Sox for 2012relieved Crain and got the final five outs of the game, striking out three and earning his eighth save.

By postgame, even Ozzie Guillen was getting into the Buehrle tribute act, tweeting from Miami: Mark buurrrrrr thanks for a great memories buddy. love ya man To bad I couldn't have been there.

As for the current manager, Buehrle offered an honest assessment of the Cooper Era.

So far, so good, he said with a smirk. Lets see what he does Wednesday. Who knows, maybe hell get the job next year.

READ: Cooper on the hot seat - for good?

We thought there was one play where he could have gone out and argued, Konerko laughed. We teased him and said he was too scared to go out there and argue.

Meanwhile, Cooper laughed in recollecting how the game began, with the new manager watching his ace warm up in the pen pregame: I had to laughI told Mark, One career is ending, another is beginning.

What was said around their warm embrace on the mound?

Thanks for everything, Cooper said.

For a first-day guy, Coop seems to have instantly connected with the hearts of White Sox fans everywhere.

Comeback kid

All along, Buehrle has maintained he could very well come back for 2012, saying after Tuesdays win that the White Sox are all I know. Its hard to think otherwise about returning. Deep down, Id love to be back.

The veteran also admitted that if presented with similar offers, he would opt for the White Sox, preferring a three-year deal, but if presented with only a one-year offer, he might opt for retirement.

Hes still doing the job, Konerko said. As a teammate, you want him around.

A.J. left behind

Pierzynski was proud as punch over Buehrles win, but admitted the pulling of the lefty should have looked different: I was supposed to go out there with Coop, but he got caught up in the moment.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information. CSNChicago staff contributed to this report.